Today (Aug. 11), Russia confirmed that they are willing to negotiate a prisoner swap for WNBA star Brittney Griner. The deal will also include former United States Marine Paul Whelan who has been detained overseas as well. The Russian Foreign Ministry made the announcement, according to The Washington Post.
Ivan Nechayev, a spokesperson for the ministry, says negotiations started last week after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shared that Russia was ready to discuss a plan. Nechayev shared the good news: “Instructions were given to authorized structures to carry out negotiations. They are being conducted by competent authorities.” As previously reported by REVOLT, Griner has been detained in Russia since February after local authorities discovered the Phoenix Mercury center was traveling with a vape cartridge that contained cannabis oil.
Last week (Aug. 4), Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. At the time, President Biden released a statement saying, in part, “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”
There has been speculation that Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout could be the prisoner used in a swap. Bout is currently jailed in the United States, serving a 25-year prison. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has not confirmed that report. He did share that the Russians appear to be “prepared to engage through channels we’ve established” and “we’ll be pursuing that.” Blinken added, “We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” while speaking of the imprisoned Americans.
On Friday (Aug. 5), President Biden remained positive that Griner and Whelan would soon be released. “I’m hopeful. We’re working hard,” he said. The news outlet adds that the State Department has declared Griner and Whelan to be wrongfully detained. Last month, President Biden spoke with family members of both detainees and assured them he is doing everything in his power to bring the pair home.
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